Almost 20 years after its last attempt, American fast food giant McDonald’s has again set its eyes on the quaint communities of the Dandenong Ranges.
Determined to ensure the ranges do not miss out on its heavenly presence, this time McDonald’s hopes to establish a new fast food outlet in the village of Tecoma. It is even promising to remain open 24/7 for those desperate to fix their nightly Chicken McNugget cravings.
The franchise will not establish itself in an existing development. It plans to use a site now occupied by Saffron Cottage (a charming Indian restaurant) and the Hippie Haven café, to build a new outlet from scratch once the leases of the two current occupants expire in January 2013.
The site is opposite Tecoma Primary School and a pre-school. It also backs onto residential homes and an outlook to the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
On September 8, community members gathered outside a public meeting organised by the Council of Yarra Ranges.
A McDonald’s representative was paid to attend the meeting as part of the corporation’s sham “community consultation” while it continues its plans to spread into the hills like a plague, against the wishes of the Tecoma Village Action Group and locals.
Of the nine Yarra Ranges councillors, only Noel Cliff and Samantha Dunn were present.
Community members used the opportunity to express their objection to the development with red and yellow protest signs exclaiming “McOff”, “Maccas in the Hills? I’m NOT lovin’ it” and “Take away Maccas, not Maccas take-away”.
McDonald’s spokesperson Ron Christianson says franchise will benefit the community by funding local sporting clubs, sourcing its produce from local suppliers and providing employment. The claim is ironic given that McDonald’s has begun replacing cashiers with self-service machines in Europe.
If anything, employment is likely to decline in the region, due to the closure of local, independent businesses. Unlike McDonald’s, they cannot draw on funding obtained from other outlets, compete on minimum prices or invest in mass advertising.
Employment within tourism will also be affected. Tourists come to the Dandenong Ranges to escape large-scale commercialisation, traffic, litter and concrete development.
Local resident Jane told Green Left Weekly: “What drew me to live here was the beauty of the area, living so close to a stunning national park and the individuality of the townships throughout the Dandenong Ranges .
“There is a real sense of community up here … People love to come to the hills for day trips and weekends because it’s a breath of fresh air, an escape from homogenised, mass bland culture … If McDonald’s opens in Tecoma it will really be the beginning of the end of that sense of individuality and an assault on our community and our way of life.”
It seems the word “local” has an entirely different meaning in the world of multinational corporations.
It was (eventually) clarified at the meeting that “local” produce for the Tacoma McDonald’s would not be sourced from within the Dandenong Ranges, or even Victoria. This disproved McDonald’s’ claim that the franchise will benefit the community economically.
McDonald’s has the Tecoma site under contract, subject to council approval which may be decided on September 27. Campaigners are encouraging people to submit a letter of objection to planning officer Moulisa Sahai, as well as individual council members, highlighting the negative impacts of the development.